As a woman, your heart beats anywhere from 60 to 100 times a minute. During menopause, your heart can sometimes skip a beat or a whole measure, or even change tempo. If it happens, you should consult a doctor immediately. After all, in Canada, heart disease is one of the main causes of death in women. Luckily, in most cases, it’s just a symptom of menopause.
And once again, blame it on…
Hormones! Normally, estrogen has a beneficial effect on artery walls, helping them maintain their flexibility. In simple terms, this allows them to relax and dilate to accommodate increased blood flow. During menopause, estrogen levels fluctuate, sometimes erratically. When they’re high, the arteries dilate, and when they’re low, the arteries contract. And what happens as a result of these unpredictable highs and lows? Your blood pressure and heart rate vary.
It’s also worth noting that estrogen regulates the autonomic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary functions such as the reproductive cycle, behaviour, reactions to stress and body temperature. Nerve activity influenced by estrogen also affects the heart rate, blood pressure and sleep.It should therefore come as no surprise that “the change” can be a tumultuous time in your life.
When your heart beats wildly or changes tunes unexpectedly, you can go from feeling great to feeling terrible in a flash, which can lead to panic. But don’t panic, take action! By making a few lifestyle adjustments, you can reduce the intensity of your symptoms.
As the name implies, “cardio” exercises are essential to a healthy heart. But to reap the benefits, you need to do them often and regularly: it’s better to do 20 minutes of cardio every day than a two-hour, high-intensity Saturday workout every other week or less often. Power walking and swimming are perfect exercises, because they give all your muscles a good workout without stressing your joints. Just find the cardio workout that’s right for you: Zumba™, running, badminton, cross-country skiing, skipping rope, an elliptical trainer… you name it!
A well balanced diet keeps you in shape and helps your body ride the waves without capsizing. It also increases your ability to get through menopause with fewer symptoms. Drinking large quantities of water can also help dodge some of the symptoms associated with changes in artery dilation.
Ironically, while stress can trigger heart arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat can also cause stress! It’s better to take time out to relax every day, whether by reading, doing yoga or whatever works for you. Given the wide range of health problems aggravated by stress, it’s good to know how to shake it off.
To the rescue!
There’s a plant for that!
The cardiac benefits of Hawthorn have been known since the 16th century. Its clinical effect is now better understood, and the plant’s value as a heart tonic well documented. It increases the effectiveness and strength of heart contractions and helps regulate blood pressure. To achieve its full effect, it needs to be taken for three to six months.
If stress is at the root of all your problems, plants such as valerian and passion flower can help. The former is a natural sedative that will help you sleep better, whereas the latter is a nerve tonic.
Being proactive helps you keep stress at bay and dampen the negative impacts of estrogen swings on your heart. It’s safe to say that a healthy lifestyle is “at the heart” of the solution.